The Jaguars, for the third straight week, fell to their opponent by double digits. In the loss to division rival Houston, the Jaguars were outscored 20-7. Let's take a look at five things to remember from this one.
1. Blake Bortles is no longer the starter
The Blake Bortles era appears to be over. It likely should have been over long ago. Bortles is a class act. He's as DUVAL as it gets, but he is not a franchise QB and in four of the last five weeks he hasn't even been a competent starter. Over the last three weeks he hasn't been able to do anything in the first half, literally anything. The Jaguars offense has been held scoreless in the first half of games for three consecutive weeks. Bortles was at his worst on Sunday against the Texans, losing two fumbles on the Jaguars side of the field, essentially gift wrapping points for the Texans. Many will argue that the team around him isn't playing well enough and they certainly aren't, but Bortles penchant for turnovers, poor field vision, and inaccurate throws are just too much for an offense to overcome. After Bortles second fumble of the day Doug Marrone finally decided he had seen enough and pulled his starting QB with 10:50 left in the third quarter. After the game Marrone confirmed that the QB position is "open" moving forward. Marrone would be wise not to let Bortles back on the field with the starters, at least until Cody Kessler (or someone else not currently on the roster) proves they can't do any better, but then again the team is financially stuck with Bortles through 2019. Decisions, decisions.
2. Inconsistent play by receivers kills drives
The Jaguars receivers are young and talented. But they simply put the ball on the turf far too often. That was evident in this one. On the Jaguars second and third drives of the game the offense was able to get third and manageable situations, but two drops by Keelan Cole led to punts. His reliability and target share should be in question moving forward. Drops are the biggest flaw in his game. Fast forward to the third quarter, on Cody Kessler's first regular season pass in a Jaguars uniform Donte Moncrief let an easy one hit the ground. Fast forward again, this time to the fourth quarter. Cody Kessler has the offense moving (again) and TJ Yeldon lets a pass fall, inexplicably, through his hands right into the waiting arms of Tyrann Mathieu. The next drive for the Jaguars? Keelan Cole drops an easy one on first down. The Jaguars receivers have got to be held accountable for dropped passes. It's becoming an epidemic.
3. Cody Kessler deserves an opportunity to start next week
Jaguars backup QB Cody Kessler performed admirably when called upon. Was he perfect? By no means. But the offense looked like it could actually do something with him under center. He gets passes out on time, delivers them with accuracy, and doesn't make the dumb mistake. This conclusion isn't only drawn from his limited play on Sunday. No, there's evidence from his time starting with the Browns that suggests that Kessler has the ability to make good decisions, limit turnovers and deliver the ball with accuracy. A former third round pick, it's time for Kessler to get another shot at starting in the NFL. If it does happen it obviously won't be under the best of circumstances. The Jaguars offense is reeling. O-line injuries and inconsistent play by receivers won't help him, but perhaps, unlike Blake Bortles, Kessler won't need the offense around him to elevate his game.
4. Stop blaming the defense.
Half the Texans points came on drives in which Blake Bortles fumbled the ball away at the Jaguars own 36 yard line and then at their own 12. Outside of that the defense gave up just one touchdown drive, on which they were gashed by chunk runs, and a field goal. The defense isn't bailing the offense out like it did a season ago, but it's still a great unit. Outside of, what I believe to be, an aberration against the Cowboys in week six, the defense hasn't given up more than 23 points in a game, and that was on the road in Arrowhead against the most potent offense in football. This defense deserves respect and they deserve an offense that can, at the very least, move the ball from time to time, giving the defense a beather. The Jaguars defense has been on the field far too often.
5. The Jaguars are at a cross road
The Jaguars season is not over. They've still got nine games left to play and are just one game back in their division. Things look grim, but if the offense can just be competent then the defense will give this team a shot. The addition of Carlos Hyde along with a new, more accurate, QB under center could inject life into the Jaguars offense. Of course, Kessler is far from a proven commodity, but he at least gives the Jaguars a chance to run a functional offense.
After the game fights broke out in the locker room. Yannick Ngakoue was reportedly being held back by Calais Campbell. Who he was going after remains a bit of a mystery. Beyond the Jaguar on Jaguar brutality in the locker room there were comments from several players about the state of the team.
Jalen Ramsey, presumably alluding to the poor play from Blake Bortles and the offense, had this to say: "It's no secret what's going on here right now. Ain't nobody going to say it because we can't, but it ain't no secret what's going on and it ain't right."
Calais Campbell summed it up best: "Frustration is part of the game. We're emotional people and this is an emotional game. I do believe we will get it fixed. We have no choice, but to get it fixed. If you're not upset, you can't love this game."
"If we get back on track, everything is still here for the taking. We just have to get back on track."
Losing three in a row, with little to no offensive output, the Jaguars are down, but certainly not yet out. They're one game back in the AFC South divisional race and still firmly in control of their own destiny in 2018.
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